Fighting Knife Testing and Reviews ??????

Hey Donna I agree with you on many of your thoughts. NO fight is ever like training and I sometimes question how much reality is injected into the tests. I will have to admit though that even if they may fail at showing which is the best knife in battle they can make basic comparisons between one execution of fighter and another. I know that seems obvious but I thought I should mention it.

The other thought was about your virgin blade. I believed this as well for the longest time and always had a fixed blade on me that was just for the "day". What happened was that I realized that my daily carry folder was the quickest most adept and fluid knife I owned. WHy ?? because at the time I worked construction and took it out and used it 100 times a day. It, like my screwdriver became so accustomed to my hand that moving them about was thoughtless. I used to draw it, open it,sometimes switch grip and use it in the most comprimising positions atop ladders, scafold and more. Many You drop it you lost it scenarios. I figured it might not be razor sharp if I use it in a defensive situation but it would be compensated by my comfortableness and speed with it. Now my daily carry fixed blade do every chore there is and I sharpen it when its dull. I know that after two weeks of using it in the Kitchen and at work or hiking it will really be mine.


[This message has been edited by Boriqua (edited 07-06-2000).]
That is a very interesting and educational post. Many knifemakers make what are called fighting knives. Do you find many that truly KNOW how well their knives actually perform
for fighting? How common is dropping a knife in training? Is handle material or handle design more important?
Hi Donna,

I respectfully offer another perspective.

>>Several military style knives and swords, were tested in battle. The Sumarai and Filipino Moro Warriors tested their swords on unsuspecting human beings. The khukuri performed well in battle and we know as a fact that the khukuri will remove limbs with ease. I do not know of a RECENTLY DESIGNED custom fighter--icluding my own--which boasts "Battle Tested." <<

There are not many places where a maker can claim his blades are "battle tested." We should be grateful we don't live in a time or place where blades can be "tested" in real life on a periodic basis.

The above in fact makes an argument for testing. No maker can truly say their "wares" have been tested in battle. Yet, folks will and still carry blades in preparation. How can one know that the chosen blade will suffice never mind be really good for the task in a life or death situation? The closest is to put the blade through tests that comes close to simulating the stresses that the knife may be put through. Yes, even the most half-a$$ blade will cut but will it survive a blade to blade, or blade to stick, or whatever clash? Will it stay intact when thrust inadvertantly into say a buckle or brass button. No way to know unless you put in through the paces.

Constant warfare with blades pretty much stopped in Japan after the ascent of Tokugawa Shogunate. Without resort to "battle testing", the samurais and blademakers resorted to "tamishigiri" (blade testing) on prisoners, criminals, dead bodies and, yes, even the unsuspecting passer-byer. This gave valuable feedback. But, thankfully, this too has passed on (in legalistic society). So, many practitioners don't even do testing anymore and their "weapons" have been devolved mostly to pretty replicas. Yet, the "jutsu" (martial) oriented, tamishigiri is alive and well and seen as necessary with their cherished "live" blades. This is done with wrapped straw mats, bamboo, wood, etc. For example, Toshihiro Obata, a noted aikijutsu shihan and bujutsu (over budo) proponent criticizes kenjutsu players who don't do tamishigiri. His position is how does one claim to master a sword when that person has not a clue what that sword is capable of, even if in a test which at best simulates what the blade is intended for. I believe he has a point.

In reality, testing a blade is nothing more than an extension of practice with a blade. Every time a blade is handle, extracted from the sheath, put through the moves, and put back into the sheath, a form of testing is taking place. How does it feel it the hand, move, flow, etc? The very handling serves to bond that blade to the wielder. S/he comes to understand the blades nuances, strengths and weaknesses... Indeed, s/he becomes "one" with it.

>>Testers will use all their strength and their best technique to tell you how well a fighter will cut and what material it will go through. From my knowledge of life and death situations you can expect to be compramised. How will that fighter cut if I use my left weak hand, which is a possiblity and how will it cut from a prone position when I cant put my body into a strike? How will it cut when using only a small amount of strength which is all I will have if I am compramised?

Someone who survived an attack on his/her life and told how even when compramised, the knife saved his day will provide a more accurate review concerning the performance of a fighter.<<

Donna, I believe you are perhaps confusing two important but separate components. You test and practice with a blade to understand its capabilities and limits and to become bonded with it. You want to trust this blade on which your life may someday depend. Should you ever be unfortunate enough to have to use the blade, your success will hopefully not be dependent on the quality of the blade but the caliber of your skills and the intensity of your mindset and spirit. The factor of the blade hopefully has been taken care off by your testing and practice with it. You know the blade and trust it. The more critical factor, then, becomes you the wielder of the blade...

In actually, each and every time you practice, you are forging yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. In effect, there is a "testing" of YOU that is happening. Just as some of the "testing" of a blade gives an indication of the blade's capability, freestyle drills and/or sparring is a "testing" of your skills and mindset.

Is the testing the real thing? No, but it affords a glimpse of the possibility and futher prepares you and the blade for the possibility of the real thing. If either fails the simulated situation -- the testing -- you go back and address the weaknesses and refine the strengths.

Thanks for raising this important topic for discussion. Look forward to training with you again soon.


AKTI #A000356

[This message has been edited by sing (edited 07-06-2000).]
Sing, I agree with many of your points, but I would point out that Randall knives have been around through one World War, and many smaller conflicts, as have traditional old stand-bys like the Ka-Bar. Though these are not necessarily "new" designs, they are still knives in current production that have been used in combat. However, being "battle-proven" does not necessarily make these better knives than their modern day descendants, many of which have been built incorporating lessons learned from the users of these blades. That and ninety-eight cents will get you a cup of coffee.
I agree with alot of the statements mentioned!It simply amazes me to see what custom knifemakers call fighters it just shows me that these makers havent have a clue and are just following a trend!or gotten bad advice from some so called master knifefighter and came out with some cockamame designs it boggeles me to see how limited some minds are in makers and consumers!!
Donna :

Lastly, I will not put my custom fighter through a bunch of tests. My fighter remains a virgin until the day I have to use it to save my life. I want my knife in pristine condition if my life ever had to depend on it.

If a makers encourages this then avoid them like the plague. No maker can offer a 100% rate of perfect blades. Knives should be tested to make sure they can handle what is to be expected of them. A blade can come with flaws from even the best makers.

As for the rest of it, I have little interest in fighting knives, and less experience, however for utility knives, I am very interested in the grip and how a blade performs with a less than optimal technique and much of the rest of what you mention.

As for being "battle tested", while this would obviously give valuable information it is not realistic to expect this to be a part of normal evaluation. The cutting ability and durability of a blade can be examined without it, as well as security, ergonomics and anything else.

An interesting form of tamishigiri is described by Wally Hayes ( ). He handed one of his katanas over to friends of his, martial artists, who cut up a metal garbage container without destroying the blade. That´s what I call testcutting

"Peace is not without conflict; it is the ability to cope with conflict" - Leo Giron
First I mean no disrespect here.
IMHO there is more than one aspect to the slang term Fighter.

Then there is a survival knife

Then there is a utility knife
and more........

Im trying to pry out the opinion of what a fighter , survival, and utility knife is .

Whats your opinion?

What tasks should these knives perform well if used for the intended purpose?

Combat tested is the real test. Anyone you know sliced a human throat? Hacked a person to death? I feel all a knifemaker can do is set up simulated situations. Of coarse these are just an opinion of what a real killing episode would be.
This goes for camp , utility ect also....
What should the test be for a fighter?
What should it be for a survival knife?
What should it be for a utility knife?
And others?
It just seems if folks would speak out here then we could get to the bottom of this.

Then there would be standards. With standards then the hype would stop.

The knife would either perform the test or not perform the test. This would stop all of the hype and misinformation.
If we all agree to one set of rules then makers and maufacturers can say yes this knife will do these things and it fits into this group.
Once these standards are established there would be no waffling and tests that are not realistic.

Cliff said:
If a makers encourages this then avoid them like the plague. No maker can offer a 100% rate of perfect blades.
Knives should be tested to make sure they can handle what is to be expected of them. A blade can come with
flaws from even the best makers.

Cliff You are the guru as far as some blades are concerned. If a manufacturer or makers says the knife will pass a test to your liking this would be great . But the problem is there are no standards.
I feel your comments are correct.
You said above that they should be tested and NOT trusted. Well ok then. Please spell out every detail of what you consider the test for a good blade that you would put your name on in the type and style that you know.

I offer this post to try to promote good standards for knives. If we know what the tests and standards are then we have a guideline to live by. After established, test the knives to the guidelines in the test requirements and if they dont perform then there should be something to complain about.. Then makers and manufacturers can be rated over periods of time to get there ratings up.

Then we have something real, not just opinion.

Web Site At

[This message has been edited by Darrel Ralph (edited 07-07-2000).]
Hi all!

It's not impossible to have battlefield tested knives in this day and age. Anyone remember that little middleeastern todo 9 years ago? I have a friend who went to that, but he isn't a knife knut. His carries; a Ka-bar, leatherman and an OSS sleeve dagger that his father carried in WWII. Another friend spent 3 years in Bosnia. His carry a timberline spec-war which I bought him cause he wouldn't have got it himself. This guy was a martial artist way before joining up and I've seen him turn just about anything into a weapon. Why the "spec-war"? he asked for a pry-bar. His other carry blade a re-profiled ak-47 bayonet.

The thing is that purpose built custom fighters are fine and dandy, but most of todays combatants just don't use them. I won't get into whether it's a money issue or not.

While I agree that if your going to get something along these lines better a knifemaker that knows something about what he's doing, but I also don't think that a non-military non-martial artist can't make a good blade for the same task.

~ JerryO ~

Cogito Cogito Ergo Cogito Sum
Isn't animal testing the way a blade would be tested if you had to seriously evaluate the knife. Grip etc. can be easy enough to determine in basic combat practice. To test
for penetration, bone, slicing, an animal carcass should give the tester much of what they need to know. Sure it isn't human but flesh and bones is flesh and bones.
I wouldn't be surprised if most testing on blades for consideration for military use consisted of abusing the knife far beyond normal rational use of a knife than the actual performance of the cutting of tissue.
Actual knife fighting is in reality a thing of the past. Aren't military knives currently and in the past primarily tools?
Hey donna have fun at the sayoc seminar!I cant make it I dont think?say hi to jeff when you go up with him to the seminar I am his training partner,funnt thing ask jeff what his favorite fighter is and you will see that it is not the knife but what you can do with it!besides what he has is a damn good knife or I should say knives I carry the same thing for it works well with what I know!My technology the more simplistic the better I think !! How about you?
oops simplistic meaning the blade not my technology even though i can make it so if i wish!!LOL bye
Hey I dont know if it was just hype but the point about live MOVING animals is great and wasnt Larry Harley out there messin with Boar. About as close to combat as you can get outside of people.

Donna, it is simply not realistic to think a maker can make a solid blade 100% of the time, custom or not. No sensible maker is going to make that claim. Unless of course they test every single blade they send out, and even then you can't eliminate the possibility of problems which cause fracture if hit at certain angles, or internal stresses which develop over time.

how do I know that the solo tests that are performed are not just basic tests that most knives will do well at?

It is impossible to come to any conclusion based on how blades perform when no baseline is given. You cannot judge the resistance of the medium to being cut, the stress it places on the blade, nor the skill of the user.

A hatchet is designed to chop all sorts of things. How the hell did it get stuck in a skull bone?

Chopping blades (axes, hatchets, khukuris, bowies, machetes, whatever) can easily bind readily if excessive force is used, I have drove them into wood where they had to be chopped out.

I am looking for more facts and more exact science and good solid reasoning on why some tests are better than others

The easiest way is to do the actual thing and evaluate the blades performance and then compare it to how it behaves in a simulated test. Once you get a test that shows very consistent behavior as compared with the actual use you have a way to rank future blades fairly easily.

In terms of how to evaluate fighting blades, based on what I have cut, the actual cutting ability of a fighting blade would not have to be very high for you do be easily able to do fatal damage to someone. A common statistic often referred to on these forums - most knife murders are with simple kitchen knives.

Based on what flesh I have cut, animal (dead) and human (my own accidently), it is very easy to cut flesh, including covered with fabrics, leather etc. as compared to some of the thinks utility blades have to deal with. I can not see any blade having trouble with that kind of cutting unless it is very blunt. I also watched my grandfather butcher many animals that he just killed and the blades he used were very low performance compared to most high end customs and he cut through the flesh very easily. I discussed this with a friend of mine from Malyasia (he posts here very infrequently as muni) and he commented that it was common for a simple parang to be used back there (basically a convex 1/4" machete) and they don't have any trouble dismantling each other with that.

Same with stabs, unless the guys is wearing heavy protective gear the human body simply doesn't offer much resistance to a knife point or anything else. I have drove a nail so far into my foot that I had to stand on the board with my other foot and jerk a couple of times to get it out. I also watched an uncle drive a nail through his bicep accidently with little force. Most extreme case was on one of those real life hospital shows where a knife was shoved right into a guys skull and penetrated significantly into the brain. It wasn't a custom fighter, it was a cheap survival knife with those triangle teeth on the back.

Based on that, I would think that critical areas would be handle security, handling ability and fatigue rate. I would think as long as the blade is sharp and the edge and tip profile not retarded, you could easily do fatal damage.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 07-07-2000).]
Donna, one thing to keep in mind is that when you say "simulate combat" you have to be fairly specific as to what you mean by "combat". Given that you live in the USA and aren't in the armed forces, I suspect that any situation that you would have to cut yourself out of would be on the level of a street fight.

This is more than just a semantic thing. When the military says "combat" they're usually referring to several armed and armored groups of people interacting (violently) in a semi-organized way, where one side is trying to stomp the other into submission. The street fight scenerio -- especially the "defense until I can run away" type that *I* so greatly favor -- is a different sort of interaction. I would say that for this sort of thing, you'd be better off getting data from emergency rooms in hospitals, than from military sources.

I hope to see you and Sing at the upcoming Sayoc seminar.
I agree with much of what Donna is saying. The first thing I look at for in a defensive knife is the handle. The handle needs to allow for very fast movement without slipping. It should also allow for a powerful thrust without your hand sliding up the blade.

In the case of a folder, I will look at the reliability of the lock. I have also had custom knives ground with unground sections near the pivot in case the blade should fold up.

After this I look at the blade shape and sharpness.

I also think it's great to get a trainer version of the knife to use against a dummy. That way you can get a very good feel for the handle and locking mechanism. I was able to try out a REKAT Escalator trainer for a few months. The lock was fantastic. The handle was surprisingly secure although the sharp "horns" was tough on the hands. I have also tried trainers for liner locks where I was able to get the locks to fail.


OK, in my humble opinion:

A fighter is a knife designed for close quarters personal combat. It must function effectively to cut and penetrate the body of an adversary who may be clad in heavy leather, and possibly in light body armor.

The design of a fighting knife should be very ergonomic to allow the user an instinctive control over its movement. A point near the median line of the handle makes tip location more intuitive for hitting thrusting targets. The handle shape should tell you which way the edge is facing. A natural cutting motion of the arm should keep the entire length of the edge firmly engaged with the target, as much as possible.

A fighter needs a strong tip to survive thrusts that strike bone, belt buckles, body armor, the adversary's weapon, etc. This would generally not be equivalent to thrusting the tip of a knife into a solidly mounted steel plate. Wrists give, the adversary will recoil and move.

In addition to strength, the tip should be ground in an efficiently penetrating shape. There are lots of them. The main thing is a tip that is thick enough to be strong, and shaped to penetrate effectively. Somewhat of a compromise may be in order here, but I would compromise on the side of strength. The best penetrating tip won't do you any good if it breaks off against a belt buckle.

A fighter needs a very aggressive primary edge to cut through heavy clothing, and still do critical biomechanical damage, particularly to limbs.

The handle of a fighter should be very ergonomic to provide maximum contact area with the hand. It should have contours that prohibit slipping forward or backward. There are an infinite number of ways to design this. Lately I have been favoring a moderate lower guard and a pinky hook, bird's beak, or flared butt. The handle should be full enough to fill the hand, but not so big that the fingers cannot close around it. Opening the grip increases the likelihood of being disarmed.

The ideal edge characteristics of a fighter should be such that if the edge is dragged in a firm cutting motion over a metalic object such as a heavy zipper, body armor, or an adversary's weapon, the edge will retain a significant ability to cut. An application would be when there is simply no other way to block an attack except with the knife edge against another knife, pipe, or length of chain, you would need to be able to do that, and still have an edged weapon in your hand afterward. As a secondary consideration, this toughness should be accomplished along with the highest degree of wear resistance possible.

A fighter blade should be able to withstand a heavy blow, and as long as you are able to sustain a grip on the knife, the blade should be intact. In other words, the knife should be knocked from your hand before the blade breaks from the impact of a blunt weapon.

So the important features of a fighter are:

Ergonomic design
Strong tip
Penetrating tip
Aggressive primary edge
Edge durability
Blade strength
Grip Security
Grip stability

How to test:

Tip Strength
Attach a metal plate to a heavy punching bag, and stab the plate at oblique angles, well off of perpendicular. No amount of the tip should break off that would result in a significant, say more than 50% reduction in penetration of a softer target such as a thick phone book.

Tip Penetration
Stab a phone book and measure how many pages deep it went. No need to get much fancier than that. This is a good time to get a feel for grip stability too.

Aggressive Primary Edge
With moderate cutting force, the edge should cut through medium leather (5 oz?), a layer of light cloth, and a significant depth of soft foam or damp newspaper. The depth of the cut will be a function of the blade length and shape, but the idea is that if the blade can be put on the target, it will go through a leather jacket, shirt, and do some tactical damage. Hey, if the blade will go through leather, foam, and a broom stick, that's an A+, but partly determined by blade mass and the capability of the tester. This is also a good indicator of good ergonomic design relative to other knives. A deep cut with the same effort means better design.

Edge Durability
Strike the knife against some heavy, free hanging chain, as though to cut it. This is more to simulate blocking an attack from a metal weapon with the blade edge. Knife should still perform at 50% or more in the test for an aggresive primary edge.

Blade Strength
Hold the blade in your hand while an assistant strikes the blade with a heavy stick or pipe on the spine and flat. This would also be a good test of grip security.

Grip Security
Have assistant grab the protected blade and attempt to wrench the knife out of your grip.

Grip Stability
Coat the handle with a light cooking oil and swing the blade at the highest possible arm speed in a motion parallel to the ground, i.e. from side to side. The knife should not slip from your grip, but should feel secure and stable. Thrust the knife into a heavy, free hanging foam target such as a punching bag.

These are off the top of my head, and obviously nothing a maker, owner, or tester could quantify objectively, but if it was your knife, and you were the tester, it would certainly give you a lot of confidence in your blade if it passed to your satisfaction. Additionally, if a maker told me these were the kinds of shenanigans he went through in the design and specification of his fighting knife, I would be pretty impressed.

All the tests sound pretty dangerous. Don't do them unless you are a responsible adult wearing adequate protective gear.


[This message has been edited by Steve Harvey (edited 07-07-2000).]